You're in your Underwear in Public, Again.

Written by: Ryan Hurd

It may be the most familiar dream in the world: You are walking down an aisle in front of a large audience—maybe to accept an honor or give a speech—and then realize to your horror: you left your pants at home. White hot embarrassment follows and you wake up. Sometimes though, you’re not off the hook until you watch everyone turn, laugh and point.

Why do we have this common dream theme of being naked in public, and why now?

I reached out to Tore Nielsen, director of the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory in Montreal, Canada. He speculated that, “Some naked dreams may be the incorporating of one's actual body state into the dream. Since our dreams are social most of the time, then incorporations like that are almost guaranteed to take place ‘in public.’ One prediction from this idea would be that such dreams would be more likely if you are sleeping naked (but usually wear pajamas).”

The timing of this dream may be another key. As dreams sometimes emerge as a snapshot of our mental health—such as our current worries, concerns, and frustrations—you could also take this dream as a reflection of feeling “naked.”

Ask yourself, where in my life am I feeling naked or vulnerable right now?

Now, take a moment and scan your waking life activities—does something pop up that resembles what you felt in the dream? Perhaps a new responsibility at work that leaves you feeling exposed? Or a creative project that you put your heart and soul into, but are nervous about how people will react?

You can honor that dream by “shoring up” your life where you feel exposed or afraid of being embarrassed. For example, you can decide to spend more time after hours learning the procedures of a new work obligation. Then you can be confident to execute it flawlessly the next time you are “on stage.”

Alternatively, this common dream theme of being naked in public could be a clue to invest in a little more self-care in the face of public scrutiny. Take yourself out on a date—put it on the calendar! Spend the time doing something that relaxes you, whether that’s a mani-pedi, an overdue night out with friends, or a long walk in woods. Don’t forget about sleep: you may just be overtired and in need of some rest.

You may not be able to change what stresses you out, but you can control how you respond to stress. At the least, take the time to relax before bed every night, and as Dr. Nielsen suggests, don’t forget to put your pajamas on.

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